The Cleveland State Vikings earned a trio of hard fought non conference battles, both of which were part of their own midseason invitational, hosting Canisius and Coppin State.
As an appetizer to their MTE, the Vikings hosted Edinboro, a division two school located in Pennsylvania. The Vikings began to figure some things out offensively against the Fighting Scots, as they had four players reach double figure scoring; D’Moi Hodge, Torrey Patton, Broc Finstuen, and Yahel Hill in their 75-61 victory. CSU also held Edinboro to just three fast break points on the night, an area of their defense that has become a staple so far this season. While much of this can be attributed to their full court press, they are not allowing for teams to break it in a way that leads to a quick bucket on the other end.
The Vikings began their MTE by hosting Canisius out of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The Golden Griffins came into Cleveland State’s tournament with a winless record, but they played a pair of high majors very closely in games versus Miami (FL) and nationally ranked St. Bonaventure. Despite their overall record, the Vikings knew this game would be hard fought, and they were not disappointed. After scoring a season high in points with 45 in the first half, the Vikings were led by Hodge, who amassed 27 points on 11-15 shooting in the Vikings’ 80-70 victory.
Following CSU’s victory over Canisius, Dennis Gates spoke to the ability of first year Viking Deshon Parker, who has been tasked with the starting point guard duties in the absence of Craig Beaudion who is sidelined indefinitely after undergoing surgery on his ankle.
Gates stated, “Whenever you have a guy who started two straight years, averaged over 30 minutes at JMU…then he transferred and was on an NCAA tournament team, you have some great experience. And then I didn’t wanna disrupt the flow of Yahel Hill, who was coming off the bench playing a combo position for us. I just thought to settle the entire team down, let’s get someone as steady as Craig Beaudion, Deshon Parker was it with his experience I thought.”
Through his first few games as a Viking, Parker has been what Gates has exactly described; a steadying force who has the ability to facilitate half court offense and make his teammates better. Parker will be asked to do that and then some as the Vikings get ready to begin the conference portion of their schedule in the coming weeks.
After the victory over Canisius, Cleveland State did battle with a very young but upstart Coppin State ball club to wrap up their MTE. Despite the Vikings getting off to another hot start in the first half, Coppin State was able to weather the storm and gain more confidence as the contest went on.
The Eagles, who have only one senior on their roster, doubled up Cleveland State’s output from behind the three point arc as they converted on ten three pointers in comparison to the Vikings who hit just five. This allowed for Coppin to stay in the game until the waning moments, when Hodge and Tre Gomillion put the Eagles to bed with a layup and breakaway dunk, respectively.
Despite the opponent being undermanned in terms of veteran leadership, this is the exact type of game Cleveland State needs to become comfortable playing as conference play nears. As the defending conference champions, the Vikings will receive their opponents best shot on a nightly basis as they are now viewed as a mid major program who can make some noise.
Playing with targets on your back is something that Cleveland State is not accustomed to, but this year, they will take the title of perhaps being the Horizon League’s most anticipated opponent based off their success from last year. While it has taken some time for the Vikings to grow accustomed to this, they are certainly on the right track in terms of gaining the mental tenacity they need to bring into each game as defending league champions.